The annual showcase has new artwork on display at Bayfront Park.
Sarah Wertheimer is most excited for the coming field trips.
The executive director of Embracing Our Differences has had plenty to do in recent months. Now — as it has been for years — is the unveiling of the annual Embracing Our Differences exhibit, which displays dozens of pieces of artwork promoting inclusion and progressive ideals in poster-size form in Bayfront Park.
When those posters are raised overhead, resting on poles dug deep into the ground, local students from Sarasota and Manatee county are able to visit and learn more about the art and artists who compose the exhibit.
The 2022 exhibit opened Jan. 15 with 50 pieces from local and international artists. It’s a return to routine that Wertheimer enjoys.
“(I love) seeing it go up and just seeing these pieces that we've worked with for so long on our computer screen blown up to 12 and a half by 16 feet,” Wertheimer said. “It always amazes me.”
The Embracing Our Differences nonprofit keeps itself busy during the year, both collecting thousands of submissions from students and adults from across the globe as well as organizing educational programming and partnerships with local school systems.
Wertheimer has noticed a shift in subject matter during the pandemic. Sometimes staff receives many similar pieces, such as one year where there were several artistic renditions of butterflies. For the last two years though, Wertheimer has seen a jump in pieces dealing with mental health.
“We've definitely seen a lot of intense emotions coming out in the artwork and the quotations,” Wertheimer said. “I's been wonderful to really see how we've been able to help students and adults alike, be able to really get out what they've been going through.”
The nonprofit’s artistic and educational avenues intersect when local schools host field trips to the exhibit. While Embracing Our Differences has been able to sidestep many of the inconveniences during the pandemic due to having an outdoor display, it’s a simple reality that many of those field trips have been delayed or canceled due to safety precautions by the school system.
Virtual field trips became the standard in 2021 where EOD docents recorded videos of the artwork on display and had it played in classrooms.
In-person field trips have been planned for this January but were recently delayed to February. Wertheimer is eagerly awaiting those — she says her favorite part of the entire process is seeing how children respond to the many artists she’s raised up.
“They just don't have filters that adults have and it's so wonderful to hear their interpretations and their connections with the artwork,” Wertheimer said.
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